I’ll come clean.
The first sentence I became fluent in during my travels around Mexico was “una cerveza, por favor”.
Before you judge me too harshly, a quick word of explanation.
It seemed like every town I visited in my Mexican journey of discovery had at least one cobbled square with the obligatory Spanish-style church and an array of streetside cafes and restaurants just crying out, “try me! try me!”
Plates of enchiladas, spicy chorizo, ensaladas, and (my personal favourite) Mole de Pollo! The aromas of spicy foods. The vibe. The wonderful sense of happiness. And with every meal, an ice-cold cerveza to wash it all down. How could I resist? Hence my instant crash course in rudimentary Spanish.
Cobbled town squares and Spanish churches from the fifteenth century may be a tad thin on the ground in the City of Sails, but when it comes to Mexican cafes…well, there’s no denying that we Aucklanders are spoiled for choice. And thank Heavens for that!
To make your life easier the next time your tastebuds are craving for a food fiesta, we’ve prepared a list of some of the Mexican restaurants and cafes dotted around Auckland. They’re not in a particular order – and this is by no means an exhaustive list of Mexican eateries in Auckland.
But it’s a good place to start.
So, where do you even start?
The name of this lively eatery (Besos Latinos) translates to “Latin Kisses”. Like the Mexican Café this establishment in the city CBD has become well-known among Aucklanders who share a passion for Mexican cuisine. Besides an appropriately buoyant ambiance and a mouthwatering menu, you’ll find no shortage of cocktails to satisfy your cravings. Try a mango margarita with a serving of crispy shrimp empanadas – you can’t go wrong.
The Mexican Café
The Mexican Café on Victoria Street has been part of Auckland since, like, whenever. The steep flight of stairs means you can claim you’ve done your exercise for the day. When you reach the top, you’re greeted by the sort of lively atmosphere you’d find in those town squares I was talking about earlier. Lunch menus from $10 and dinner from $15 make this an affordable pop-in place.
The name may ring a bell because of the Taco Loco food truck that serves up Mexican street food at assorted Auckland festivals and night markets. By it you fancy a more comfy sit-down while sampling their fare, you can always go to their vibrant eatery in Mt Albert. Sited (appropriately enough with the street food connection) in a former garage, Taco Loco serves up so many options you won’t know where to start (so repeat visits are recommended to help you get through the menu).
Another city-wide Mexican delight, Mexicali Fresh reflects the Cali-style Mexican food that the owners grew up with. It’s a great place for a feast or a light bite – and the energetic, yet laid back atmosphere (yes, you can have both) is perfect for gatherings of book groups. Work do or birthday party? Now there’s a thought.
Feel like munching on some spiced brisket nachos with some nice sea views? Marina Cantina’s name kind of gives the location away (food by the sea) – the perfect spot for your Mexican fix in Auckland’s eastern suburbs. This bright and cheerful spot is in Half Moon Bay, operating from Grangers restaurant. Tacos, Mexican-esque fries, churros (no Mexican meal is complete without them) – and how about a shot of tequila to top things off.
Don’t let the word “chain” put you off. This chain of Mexican restaurants is the real McCoy. How could it not be anything but authentic with items like chimichangas and baja fish tacos of the menu? And let’s not forget those crispy churros with chocolate and salted caramel. And one of the good things about it being a chain is that you’ll probably find a Mexico near where you live – with restaurants in Britomart, Takapuna, Ponsonby, Ellerslie and Sylvia Park.
This cosy little spot in the Northcote Food Court can feed two for less than $30. One of the highlights among the traditional and homely Mexican dishes on offer are the tacos (three for $15 or thereabouts). And if beef isn’t your cup of tea, you can always opt for chicken or slow-cooked lamb. If meat isn’t your thing at all, you’ve just got to get your teeth into the vegan tacos, made from organic Mexican black mushrooms. And don’t forget the tamales. Nanita’s Tamales is open for dinner only (and days can vary).
This unassuming eatery can be found on the Concourse, off the Northwestern Motorway in Henderson (which is out west, if you’re not an Auckland local). Cielito Lindo has been set up by co-owners Eliseo Delgado Munoz and Angelina Febiyanti to showcase traditional Mexican cuisines to us hungry Aucklanders. The signature dishes are tacos and sopes, a popular Mexican street food based on fried corn tortillas. The tacos (under $5 each) are served with two layers of soft corn tortillas, which Angelina suggests must be used for the tacos to be considered authentic.